URB’s Guide to Live Music: Sounds in the South West
Bath has a reputation for being a quaint, small, pretty little city, and that is undeniable. It’s the quiet kid sitting at the back of the classroom whilst London, Manchester and Liverpool are at the front making a scene. Through this common view that Bath is quiet in comparison to other cities, many people believe that Bath and the South West in general has a relatively small music scene.
This is completely untrue in the eyes of the URB team.
Here is our definitive guide to some of the best spots in Bath and the nearby South West for live music, and a few upcoming gigs that we feel should definitely be on your radar.
The Bath Forum
Our first venue is in the heart of Bath, and for many years has not been appreciated as a quality music venue by those living in the city. The Forum was first opened in 1934 as one of the last ‘super-cinemas’ to be operating in the UK. Since then, the Forum has seen a lot; it was a place of solitude for locals during the Depression in the late 30s, faced closure in the 80s, and opened its doors to the Bath Christian Trust as an HQ for helping the homeless population in the city. The venue has brought in some big names of the best years, with George Ezra famously choosing the venue as part of his secret tour across the UK in 2018. Keep an eye out for some of the names performing here as it usually goes under the radar.
James Arthur Thu 17th October
Jack Savoretti Tue 5th November
James Morrison Wed 6th November
Emeli Sande Sat 23rd November
Moles is often regarded the home of live music on Bath. This is due to its rich history and the previous artists who have graced the stage since it opened in 1978; but Moles still continues to deliver great acts on a continuous basis, and has become a tour-stop for many upcoming artists before they make it. With alumni including Ed Sheeran, Radiohead, The Smiths, Eurythmics, Oasis and Mumford & Sons, it’s no wonder why you should not miss a gig at Moles.
Nova Twins Sat 21st September
October Drift Tue 1st October
The Spitfires Fri 18th October
Catholic Action Wed 23rd October
This venue has a reputation for showcasing some of the UK’s finest comedians, with the likes of Ellie Taylor, BGT’s Daliso Chaponda and Lost Voice Guy, Mock The Week’s Gary Delaney and many others gracing the stage to tickle our funny bone. But Komedia is also home to some cracking live music events, ranging from classic Motown club nights to exclusive DJ sets from the likes of Dimension, DJ Luck and MC Neat, and Bicep. The former cabaret hall was established under its new name in 1994, and has continued to bring alternative entertainment to the city. It also has a large number of high-quality tribute acts strolling through its stage door – if this is your cup of tea, definitely give it a watch. Komedia pushes the boat in bringing some unique and entertaining live acts to the city, with these gigs and events usually selling out rather quickly. Keep updated on their social media and keep an eye out for flyers publicising some of the great events that Komedia will be hosting this year.
The Wildhearts Wed 16th October
Lucy Spraggan Wed 23rd October
Little Comets Fri 1st November
Marianas Trench Fri 8th November
Fortunately for you, there’s more to the South West than Bath. With Bristol only 20 minutes away on the train and Frome around an hour away via public transport, you have the opportunity to scour the region for great music all year round. Here are a few places in neighbouring towns and cities that we recommend to check out once in a while.
O2 Academy Bristol
If you have mums or dads or relatives who used to go out in Bristol back in their day, they’ll know this venue as the ‘Locarno’. Nowadays, it goes under the less interesting name ‘The O2 Academy’. This venue has continuously brought in big names from all over the globe over the past decade, giving the South West the opportunity to watch high profile acts without having to splurge on train fare to arena cities such as London, Cardiff or Birmingham. The Academy is amazing for its varied line-ups, with an old-skool garage act performing one night and then an indie band performing the next day. Over the next couple of months, some big names will be stopping by to entertain including Lewis Capaldi, Sam Fender and Sigrid. For the best of the charts, head down to Brizzle and go to the Academy.
Fetty Wap Wed 25th September
slowthai Thu 17th October
Kodaline Wed 6th November
Yungblud Tue 19th November
Lewis Capaldi Tue 26th November
Formerly known as Syndicate until 2015, SWX is one of those giant clubs with so much going on that it can often disorientate you. Giant inflatables, pyrotechnics, live performers surrounding you – it sounds like a scene from 1st generation Skins. You might be deterred by this, but there appears an endless list of awesome British acts performing to the masses at this venue. Despite having a reputation as a nightclub, the amount of indie bands making their sound here is remarkable, with the likes of The Night Café, Dermot Kennedy and The Sherlocks taking to the stage very soon.
Dermot Kennedy Fri 27th September
The Night Café Sat 28th September
John Newman Mon 14th October
Jordan Rakei Tue 15th October
Headie One Mon 28th October
I first heard about Thekla thanks to the TV show Skins (it was used in 2nd Gen for those interested), and I genuinely didn’t believe it was real. I mean, would you believe someone if they dragged you to a boat parked in a river and told you that this was where you were going out? Thekla has become one of Bristol’s most influential live music venues, famed for its eclectic and independent edge. When faced with near closure in 2017, thousands of locals rallied together to put the wind back in its sails. This is the sort of venue if you’re in the mood for finding new acts to listen to, as the likes of Marika Hackman, Picture This, Blaenavon and Superfood have all performed here in recent history.
Kovic Wed 9th October
Cassia Sat 26th October
Little Simz Mon 28th October
The Regrettes Tue 5th November
San Holo Thu 5th December
Often regarded as one of the best clubs in the UK, and once in DJ Mag’s Top 100 in the World, Motion has continued to bring fantastic urban acts to its eerie but trendy warehouse setting. With a very heavy electronic and underground feel, this venue has proved popular those interested in DJ-ing and producing their own music, with ex alumni hosting club nights or performing at the venue (cheeky little shout-out to Kemba and the Dazed crew). If you’re looking for a night-out of grandiose proportions, then this might be the venue for you.
Mella Dee (DAZED) Wed 25th September
MK Fri 4th October
Paul Oakenfold Fri 18th October
Annie Mac Fri 1st November
Shy FX Sat 2nd November
The Cheese and Grain
Just down the road in the small little town of Frome is The Cheese and Grain. This venue has gained a reputation for hosting some of the most rogue gigs in the South West, with the likes of Enter Shikari and even the Foo Fighters performing here in recent years. The venue has a real community atmosphere, with everything focused on giving back to the locals. Regular events usually include some of the UK’s best tribute bands, or acts that were massive in the 70s and 80s – I mean, most students wouldn’t consider this, but the team at URB love all live music. Don’t be ageist and give this spot a gander once in a while.
Trevor Nelson Sat 12th October
The Blockheads Sat 23rd November
Bad Manners Fri 6th December
Happy Mondays Wed 18th December
URB's Got You Covered
Hopefully we’ve enlightened you on some of the fantastic live music venues available in the South West – now, go grab your tickets, jump on the train or bus, and take it all in. Perhaps even write a review for URB while you’re there – much appreciated.
There are plenty of opportunities to get involved with reviewing or interviewing artists here at URB – all you have to do is join URB! Head over to our page on the SU Bath website (https://www.thesubath.com/media/1449amurb/), buy membership for just £9, and then get in contact with our Head of Music. From there, you will be part of a team who help curate our playlists, produce our big live countdown shows and have the opportunity to go to gigs and enjoy some decent live music.
This article was published 25.08.19. Written by URB Program Controller Mitch Thorngate. Uploaded AR.